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Code Paints Golden State in a Greener Light 


California Green Building Standards Code, CalGREEN, Regulates Nonresidential, Low-Rise Residential Buildings for Waste, Energy and Water Use

Arnold Schwarzenegger may no longer be the governor, but his vision of a greener California lives on in the form of an historic code that applies to the new construction of all nonresidential and low-rise residential buildings in the Golden State.

The California Green Building Standards Code, or CALGreen, is a set of regulations that seeks to reduce construction waste, greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption and water use throughout the state. The nation’s first statewide green building standards code, it contains residential and nonresidential sections, each with guidelines on planning and design; energy efficiency; water efficiency and conservation; material conservation and residential efficiency; and environmental quality.

Buildings governed by the new code now must use 20 percent less water, divert 50 percent of construction waste from landfills and install low pollutant-emitting materials. The California Air Resource Board has estimated that the mandatory portions of the code will reduce greenhouse gases by 3 million metric tons by the year 2020.

The California Building Standards Commission (CBSC) adopted the current version of CALGreen – which had been voluntary since first being published in 2008 – on Jan. 12, 2010. The majority of the code’s mandatory portions took effect Jan. 1, 2011, except for the indoor water use section of residential water efficiency and conservation, which will become law July 1, 2011. The baseline standards of CALGreen are mandatory, and jurisdictions wishing to impose stricter measures have the option of adopting Tier 1 and 2 levels.

In the “Water Efficiency and Conservation” section of the residential measures, for example, the code does not set any standards for kitchen faucets and dishwashers. However, for those wishing to reach Tier 1 status, the kitchen faucet must not have a flow rate greater than 1.5 gallons per minute at 60 psi. To reach Tier 2, the building will not only meet the faucet requirement, but the dishwasher must be Energy Star qualified and not use more than 5.8 gallons of water per cycle.

Among the key water-conservation requirements are a 20 percent reduction in indoor consumption over current guidelines and separate meters to monitor nonresidential buildings’ indoor and outdoor use. Additionally, larger landscape projects will require moisture-sensing irrigation systems. In conjunction with environmental and building agencies, CALGreen was developed by the California Building Standards Commission, Department of Housing and Community Development, Division of the State Architect and the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. Doug Hensel, the assistant deputy director of the state’s Housing and Community Development department, said the six-month delay for residential water conservation was done to help plumbing manufacturers.

“The two concerns were that they would not have enough product in the marketplace to meet California’s needs and that the products that they did have at that time raised concerns about consumer pushback because of performance at the lower flush rates,” said Hensel, who oversaw much of the residential portion of CALGreen’s development.

While many manufacturers undoubtedly would have preferred more time before the requirement took effect, Hensel said it was determined that six months was an adequate amount of time.

“The product nonetheless is in the market, and many of them are WaterSense® rated, so they do meet the performance criteria, and we chose to go forward with it. California has a water issue and we need to address it.” (Launched in 2006, WaterSense® is a U.S. EPA-sponsored partnership program that promotes water efficiency by enhancing the market for water-efficient products, programs and practices. WaterSense® partners with manufacturers, retailers and distributors, and utilities to bring WaterSense® labeled products to the marketplace and make it easy to purchase high-performing, water-efficient products.)

Plumbing Manufacturers Institute Executive Director Barbara C. Higgens issued a statement that said, “PMI has long advocated the efficient use of water and maximizing consumer choice as reflected in PMI’s mission statement. We believe that these two objectives are not mutually exclusive and can be achieved simultaneously.”

Higgens said consumers should be given a water consumption goal that keeps with local supply and infrastructure limitations, and should then be allowed to put together the system that is best for them. This is the best way to gain acceptance of the stricter new standards, she said.

“Providing appropriate consumer choice will produce far greater acceptance of water efficiency efforts and ultimately maximize water savings,” she said. “The effectiveness of stringent, design-restrictive water conservation programs will be blunted if consumers refuse to retain products they will not accept. Affording consumers choice has been shown to improve the acceptance of responsible water efficiency programs.”

In the press release touting the program’s adoption, Schwarzenegger pointed out that, “Upon passing state building inspection, California’s property owners will have the ability to label their facilities as CALGreen compliant without using additional costly third-party certification programs.”

While buildings constructed in California are now held to the more rigorous environmental standards set forth in CALGreen, certification of the products that go into the buildings remains optional.

Donna Estrada, director of Client Services for IAPMO R&T Lab, said third-party certifications offered by organizations such as IAPMO can play a valuable role in helping builders adhere to CALGreen standards.

In fact, IAPMO R&T revamped its Green Certification Program in anticipation of CALGreen taking effect. Manufacturers now have the option of certifying their products to numerous programs, including CALGreen, the IAPMO Green Plumbing and Mechanical Code Supplement and the United States Green Building Council’s LEED Rating® System.

Although such certifications are still voluntary in most jurisdictions, they can save builders and inspectors a great deal of time and energy by making all of the desired information available in one place at the touch of a button.

“A manufacturer has a choice of having his products listed to any or all of them, and that way if there’s ever a question an inspector can go immediately to the IAPMO R&T Website, look up the manufacturer and see he’s got a green listing,” Estrada said. “If not, the inspector has to start tracking back through the manufacturers of each individual product trying to find all of this information when it’s concentrated in one area.

“They have to then spend resources and personnel answering all of these inspectors’ questions,” she continued. “If a manufacturer has 10 or 15 calls a day, it’s worth it to him to pay the flat fee. It’s much more beneficial for them to have that certificate in the long run.”

Dave Viola, IAPMO’s director of Special Services, said CALGreen and IAPMO’s Green Supplement should work well together.

“I see the Green Supplement being the perfect resource document for CALGreen to update and expand on their CALGreen plumbing and mechanical issues requirements in the future,” he said. In fact, CBSC and HCD staff consulted with IAPMO during the development of CALGreen and utilized the Green Supplement as the basis for many of the water efficiency provisions. “The Green Supplement was put out there to be developed primarily to serve as a resource for jurisdictions developing, implementing and enforcing green building code provisions as they mature and become mandatory requirements. It’s doing exactly what it should be doing.”

Building Standards Commission
2525 Natomas Park Drive, Suite 130
Sacramento, CA 95833
Ph: (916) 263-0916
Fax: (916) 263-0959
Email: cbsc@dgs.ca.gov
Web: www.bsc.ca.gov